Otter cubs are simply adorable but it is a long term commitment to rear them. It is essential that they remain wild so they can survive and so we have to keep human contact to a minimum.
They stay with their mothers for 12-15 months and we release them at the same age. There is no better feeling than to watch them swim off as a truly wild otter.
Mazu, the Congo clawless otter cub aged about 6 weeks.
Mazu has become an ambassador for otters to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here he is introduced to some local children.
Dara, the hairy-nosed otter, in Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia. Hairy-nosed otters were thought to be extinct in 1998 but small isolated populations have since been found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, but there is a serious threat from hunting for furs.
In Cambodia it is custom for Buddhist monks to bless a new home. IOSF funded a new pen for Dara and here it is being blessed.
A group of children from Anlung Rieng school. Education is vital to help people to care for otters and their environment and IOSF is working closely with the communities living on the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia.
Sadly, it is still legal in the UK to use snares for animals such as foxes and rabbits, and although otters are protected it is not uncommon for them to be caught too. IOSF is part of a group of conservation organisations calling for a complete ban on the use of these barbaric devices in Scotland.
On 18 July 1985 we saw our first ever otter – a truly magnificent animal hunting in the sea on the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland. And we have never forgotten that first encounter as it was the start of a life of addiction – addiction to otters!
At that time we were setting up an environmental centre on the island and had started to take in orphaned and injured animals. Our first otter casualty was Billy, an adult male who had been hit by a car not far from our home.
In 1993 we set up the International Otter Survival Fund as we wanted to do more for otters worldwide. Our mission statement says “The International Otter Survival Fund was inspired by observing otters in their true natural environment in the Hebrides. Because the otter lives on land and in the water and is at the peak of the food chain it is an ambassador species to a first class environment. IOSF was set up in 1993 to protect and help the 13 species of otter worldwide, through a combination of compassion and science. It supports projects to protect otters, which will also ensure that we have a healthy environment for all species, including our own.”
Now IOSF has grown into a major voice for otter conservation throughout the world and we have supporters in 32 countries. We have supported projects in 29 countries and helped with orphaned cubs in 12 countries.
On Skye we care for injured and orphaned otters from throughout Britain and Ireland. In February 2010 we heard about a one-week old Congo clawless otter cub whose mother had been killed by a hunter. He was being cared for by missionaries and as otters cannot tolerate lactose we sent special otter milk substitute. The cub, Mazu, has become an ambassador for otters to the local people and even as far as Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.
Our Furget-Me-Not campaign aims to combat the huge fur trade in south-east Asia – for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and one haul in Tibet had 778 otter skins. Most hunters are poor fishermen so we are working with the community to provide an alternative livelihood in return for a no-hunting agreement. And it is working – in March a fisherman handed in a hairy-nosed otter to a community worker instead of selling her for fur.
Education is vital in our work and we run courses for people interested in otters and give talks to schools, etc. We carry out research, advise roads departments on reducing otter road deaths, and are part of a group calling for a ban on the use of snares in Scotland.
Thank you for helping us to care for these animals.